April 28, 2004

Contact: Bryant Freeman, KU Haitian Studies Institute, (home) (785) 842-1193; Mary Jane Dunlap, University Relations, (785) 864-8853; Tequila Minsky, (212) 431-5609.

Photographer to visit KU for opening of exhibit paying tribute to Haitian women

LAWRENCE -- Tequila Minsky, a photographer, writer and videographer whose work focuses on Haiti, will visit the University of Kansas May 5 and 6 as part of the opening of an exhibition of her portraits of Haitian women, May 3 through 14 in the Kansas Union.

"Haitian Women: Portraits of Courage" will be on display in the Kansas Union gallery, located on the fourth floor. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The reception will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 5, in the Kansas Union gallery.

"Haitian Women: Portraits of Courage" first opened in March at the Brecht Forum in New York City and includes selections from Minsky's photography work in Haiti. In mid-April, Minsky presented her work at a conference on Haitian women as part of a celebration of Haiti's bicentennial at Spelman College in Atlanta. Her images also were part of a group show of Haitian women artists at Spelman's Hammonds House Galleries.

Minsky will arrive at KU within weeks of an April trip she made to the politically torn country that gained its independence 200 years ago this year. While at KU, Minsky will meet with students taking Haitian studies courses taught by Bryant Freeman, director of KU's Haitian Studies Institute, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 6, in 4001 Wescoe Hall. She also plans to meet with KU students from Haiti and with other Haitians in living in Lawrence.

Her exhibition pays tribute to the women of Haiti and the efforts and courage required to live their lives. "The enormous strengths of Haitian women often go unrecognized," Minsky says.

Minsky's coverage of Haitian women and Haiti began in 1993 as she traveled with a group from Pax Christi to observe the impact of the 1991 military takeover of Haiti's government. The coup had exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide during his first year in office. Freeman was serving as translator for the the Pax Christi group and encouraged Minsky to continue her coverage after the tour. During that visit, Minsky videotaped some key events before Aristide was restored to power by U.S. forces in 1994. Aristide was exiled again Feb. 29 of this year.

"The current crisis impacts directly the daily lives of women, the mainstay of the family," Minsky says. "With an infrastructure so weak and no safety net, any interruption in each woman's well-honed survival system is critical. This exhibition, a tribute to the women of Haiti, acknowledges the respect that they deserve from all of us."

In her most recent trip to Haiti, Minsky worked on photographing and writing stories about FONKOZE, an acronym for Fondasyson Kole Zepol or the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Foundation, also known as Haiti's Alternative Bank for the Organized Poor. FONKOZE provides small business loans to micro-entrepreneurs, mostly to Haitian women. Modeled after the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, FONKOZE is celebrating its 10th year in Haiti and recruited Minsky to document some stories of clients, or "ti machann," the Creole term for small-businesswomen.

"I was looking at their work and how these women have survived this crisis," Minsky says. "This is amazing to see within a country with no structure that a structured Haitian organization exists and quietly goes about its work successfully."

In one rural area, she interviewed market women whose intervention saved their branch bank from destruction by rebels who were targeting buildings linked to the government. "The women explained their bank was not a political organization and that it helped women and they were part of it," Minsky says.

Minsky credits a serendipitous brainstorming session with a KU graduate student in international studies, Laura Gosa, with the suggestion to bring her exhibition to Kansas. Gosa met Minsky last summer while Gosa was working as an intern with the National Coalition for Haitian Rights office in New York City. Gosa's mention of KU sparked a conversation for Minsky, who not only had worked with the director of KU's Institute of Haitian Studies but also had met KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway when he visited Haiti in 1996.

KU's Institute of Haitian Studies and KU's Office of the Chancellor are sponsoring Minsky's visit to KU. Her exhibition also is supported in part by a grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in New York.

Gosa is a graduate teaching assistant in French and Italian and is studying Haitian Creole at KU. She is the daughter of Kirk and Joan Gastinger of Kansas City, Mo., and of Karen and Tom Carter of Oklahoma City. She is married to Kevin Gosa, a graduate teaching assistant in music and dance at KU.

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